Scientology has been described as 'a body of beliefs and related practices developed by American writer L. Ron Hubbard. It is supposed to encompass spirituality and cover topics such as morals, ethics, detoxification, education and management.'
Always in need of a little more education, I take the short walk across town and find myself chatting with a woman in the Scientology building on Deansgate. She seems happy that I'm here to take a personality test - the first step into this brave new world.
"They're great fun," she enthuses. "There are 200 questions."
"How riveting," I say. Not to her face.
I'm close to complete break down by question 36 - something like 'have you ever contemplated suicide?' I hadn't until now. Later, I'm asked whether I've ever had spasms in my body. I'm not sure what that is going to prove but I do recall the time I played a game of 5-aside and then sat in a cramped Vauxhall Nova. My leg didn't stop twitching until I got out of the damn car and straightened it. 'Yes' to that question. I'm probably not taking this as seriously as I should.
Eventually I finish the blasted thing and after a computer has magically turned my answers into a graph, a gentleman takes me through ten points of my personality, i.e. how I view myself. It turns out I have an edgy nature and I find it hard to relax. This edginess may be due to past relationships, or possibly my line of work. I'm sure it's got nothing to do with the fact that I've just answered 200 questions and my eyes are hurting.
"Do you know why this point here is particularly low?" he asks me. He meets my eyes and stares at me a little longer than I like. Does he want me to admit some terrible previous wrong doing?
To avoid suspicion, I don't tell him I work for an online magazine – so in a strange and rather unprecedented move, I create a new life for myself I tell him that I'm an office temp - a job which I find very unsatisfactory. My web of lies expands and I'm soon saying I went to University in Manchester and undertook a course in graphic design. I actually studied Journalism at Liverpool John Moores. There wasn't really any need to lie.
"Oh, your dissatisfaction with your job explains your nervous nature", the man informs me.
Again, I'm probably not treating this whole Scientology malarkey in quite the right manner.
As my lies are getting out of hand and I'm about to make up a name for a fictional wife, I go off on a tangent about how I like looking up words in the dictionary, when I come across those I don't understand.
The guy looks at me with a crazed look on his face, grinning. "Follow me, look at this". He points out the first sentence in the foreword to the core text of Scientology - something about not looking over any words you don't understand. He looks at me smiling, almost vindicated.
Am I special? Will I get my own statue like L Ron Hubbard. That would be nice.
I ask if the reception lady if I can have a look at one of the books. I flick through, paying particular notice to its 150 page glossary of words the reader may not understand.
"It's amazing," says reception woman. "Sometimes I read stuff and I'll be like, that's why this happens, and that is why that happens". I ponder that for a moment.
Where's she gone? Did I fall asleep? Oh, wait a minute. She's coming back, this time with a pamphlet about the tone scale - the emotional scale which characterises human behaviour and bodily appearance. I'm feeling edgy so I make my excuses and get the hell out of there. Yes, I might be edgy sometimes and I might find it a little hard to relax at times but I don't need L Ron Hubbard's £18 book to tell me that.
Looking back I feel like I've been insincere in my understanding of the subject. The thing is that Scientology feels downright odd when you're faced with it firsthand. It feels eccentric, cultish, not quite right. And hard to penetrate, where does the money come from, who are the real bosses, what are the intellectual doctrines behind mushy concepts such as 'the emotional scale'?
Perhaps, if you're not religious, all religions appear strange if you start to delve. Or maybe I just want one with a few hundred or thousand years of tradition.
Maybe Jesus began as a successful novelist back in the day like L. Ron Hubbard. Anyway the editor's telling me off for not taking it seriously, I'm going to have to do 200 lines repeating, "I must at all times be respectful of other people's beliefs.'
A new church?
Sian Claire Owen investigates plans for a huge new Old Trafford Scientology centre
Already with an office on Deansgate, the Church of Scientology recently bought the former Duckworth's Essence Distillery on Chester Road, Old Trafford. The Grade II listed building was to be converted into apartments by Maghull Developments. Days after that purchase, the Church of Scientology snatched up the five-story building to convert it into a 'place of worship and religious instruction'.
But things at Scientology central have hit a snag. According to Simon Castle, Chief Planning Officer at Trafford Council, the Church of Scientology's original application failed due to parking issues and the need for assurance that the listed building will not lose its 'character'. So any immediate plans to open what would be the largest Scientology Centre in the North are currently on stand-by until new proposals are considered.
The good people of Trafford may have to wait before learning all about how the essences of aliens have formed around people causing them spiritual harm. This is apparently all Xenu's fault - pictured on our homepage - the leader of 'the Galactic Confederacy'.